Therapeutic Culture and Relational Wellbeing

Sarah White, Shreya Jha

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


Wellbeing constitutes a key idiom through which therapeutic culture is dispersed in popular and policy discourse. Wellbeing is, however, a notoriously broad and ill-defined concept, which is used in many different ways. We begin this chapter, therefore, by distinguishing between three dominant constructs of wellbeing, and identifying ‘personal wellbeing’ as the one most clearly aligned with therapeutic culture. We go on to show how the construct of personal wellbeing is bi-furcated, promoting a more individualised bio-psychological ‘high road’ to aspire to and a more socialised and relational ‘low road’ for those finding life a struggle. Interestingly, both contain some recognition of the toxicity of the current system, and so an embryonic critique. Straddling the line between wellbeing critics and advocates, we suggest that wellbeing discourses may both speak to real needs that late modern society creates, and yet simultaneously reproduce the same conditions that generate those needs. The second part of the chapter presents an alternative, relational approach to wellbeing, which is based on research undertaken in non-metropolitan contexts in the global South. This conceives wellbeing as comprised of material, relational and subjective dimensions, and understands it as emerging through the inter-relations of personal, societal, and environmental structures and processes (White, 2017). The conclusion considers whether relational wellbeing may be cross-culturally applicable and how it may connect with or challenge therapeutic culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Global Therapeutic Cultures
EditorsDaniel Nehring, Ole Madsen, Edgar Cabanas, China Mills, Dylan Kerrigan
Publication statusAcceptance date - 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Therapeutic Culture and Relational Wellbeing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this